from the September 2011 issue

Netanyahu's office to use "shabbat phone"

A new phone, created by the Zomet Institute, will allow Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu to connect with his religious advisers during Shabbat.

The "Shabbat phone" utilizes a unique technology, which does not violate the Halakhic laws of what is known in Judaism as the most important day of the week. No electricity is used to make or receive a call. Instead, a special mechanism regularly scans the phone for activity, so when buttons are pressed or the phone is picked up, the device is not immediately activated. Rather, the actions are picked up only when the scanner receives them. After the day of rest has passed, the "Shabbat phone" can be transformed into a regular phone with a click of a button.

The Prime Minister's bureau has purchased twelve of these phones in order for Netanyahu to be able to speak with his advisors during Shabbat. Netanyahu's office employs the highest number of religious workers since Israel's establishment and most of his aides are observant Jews.

Those who received a phone include Bureau manager Gil Shefer, Bureau Chief Natan Eshel, National Security Council head Yaakov Amidror, Prime Minister's Office Director-General Eyal Gabay, political advisor Ron Dermer, as well as several Mossad and Shin Bet workers.

While use of the "Shabbat phone" does not violate the principles of Halakha, Rabbis have asked those in possession of them to respect the spirit of Shabbat and only utilize them when necessary.

"If the user realizes the call isn't justified or is not urgent we recommend that they ask the caller to postpone the call until after Shabbat," Zomet Institute head, Rabbi Yisrael Rosen told Ynet. "But if the phone has already been picked up, there is no problem, as the actual action of talking on an already open device does not constitute Shabbat desecration."

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report September 2011

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